Local News

House Committee Approves Measure To Change School Calendar

Posted June 30, 2004

— An effort to delay the start of the school year cleared a major hurdle Wednesday.

Despite a lot of heated debate, a bill proposing a change in the school calendar is making its way through the state legislature.

Right now, some schools are starting in the second week of August. This bill would push the start date to Aug. 25 or later. School would have to end by June 10, and 10 teacher workdays would be eliminated.

For the state's tourism industry, shifting the school calendar to a longer summer translates into big business. Industry officials estimate the measure could bring $70 million in extra revenue.

Kim Lee said she supports the idea because her kids need a bigger break.

"When you do not keep this in mind, you're not allowing your children, or my children, to get out of the box of push, push, push."

The House Commerce Committee voted Wednesday to move the bill forward. Rep. Bill Culpepper, D-Dare County, said he expects it to keep on moving.

"You never know," Culpepper said. "But I'm fairly confident there will be a vote this session in the House of Representatives."

Though the bill reduces the number of teacher workdays, it does not reduce the number of days kids spend in the classroom. Some school districts feel it will cost them in flexibility, especially if more makeup days are needed because of bad weather.

"Your options are very limited," said Michael Evans, of the Wake County Public School System. "You've got weekends and perhaps spring break."

Wake County schools had to use seven makeup days last school year -- more than the number already built in.

"We would like to have that sort of authority and power retained at the local level and not mandated," Evans said.

While Saturday school might not sit well with a lot of parents, Lee said the current option of cutting into the summer is more dangerous to kids, "never allowing them to download and breathe," she said.

A financial memo also was circulated Wednesday about the impact of longer summers. It suggested that teachers may have a tougher time using their vacation leave time. Teachers could take early retirement, or school systems may have to pay out more for unused vacation time.

The bill now could head to another committee or to the House floor.

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